Goodhart's Law & The Wire

DannyL

Wild Horses
one thing I want to say about Simon et al tho - the analysis and critique are obviously powerful, but they offer no systemic solutions

it's one thing to say this is wrong, this is what's failing and how it's failing. it's another, vastly more difficult thing to say this is what we should do instead.

that's probably unfair to ask of art - they are after all, not actual policy makers

but he's been banging on this drum so insistently for going on 20 years that it's like - well, what are your plausible better ideas?

the happiest endings his characters ever really got are those small limited victories, the compromises you can live with
Surely "Hamsterdam" is a proposed solution - was based on a real attempt at something similar IIRC, but I don't know the details. The show also demonstrates how bold solutions like this combust when they make contact with social reality.
 

DannyL

Wild Horses
OK so what are the touchstone essays in Wire lore

what're the gold-standard takes

hit me
Best place to start surely must be the two books by Simons - "The Corner" & "Homicide". Sorry if I'm stating the obvious but the reason Simons' work is so good is because of the time he spent as a crime reporter working for the Baltimore Sun. This experience - including time embedded in the police department IIRC - is written up in two huge tomes, one of which writes about the experience with the police, and the other of which takes an alternate "street" perspective.

They're both remarkable books and hugely readable. I found 'em both unputdownable and powered through them each in a few days. There are a number of anecdotes that are taken directly from the books that found their way into the series. The police are much fatter and more alcoholic than shown in the series, the criminals are generally more stupid. I don't recall an Avon Barksdale figure being mentioned but maybe I'm wrong. Some of Omar's exploits are based on a real character (Donnie Andrews) including jumping off a 3rd floor balcony (though that might not have been Andrews who did this, I can't remember).
 
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luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Surely "Hamsterdam" is a proposed solution - was based on a real attempt at something similar IIRC, but I don't know the details. The show also demonstrates how bold solutions like this combust when they make contact with social reality.
That's right. There's obviously a despairing element to this in The Wire. It doesn't take pleasure in seeing it's visionaries shot down in flames but there is a conservative aspect to it too. It's profoundly pessimistic and disillusioned. The Game has rules and any attempt to subvert them, or to go meta, is doomed to fail. You are bound by The Game, whether cop or robber, politician or schoolteacher. Just because you can see it, doesn't mean you are free of it.
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
There's a little loop of self fulfilling prophecy. We assume the world is, regrettably of course, 'just that way' and therefore act accordingly, against our self professed aspirations, ideals and desires. And consequently, never get anything we want.
 

luka

Well-known member
Staff member
Legal aid solicitors, teachers in rough schools, social workers, Craner at Citizens Advice etc etc etc. You see how people are caught in self sabotaging loops, make terrible decisions time and time again, are their own worst enemy...
 

suspendedreason

Well-known member
Also re solutions/redemptions

I assume Carcetti will have an icarus-like fall but at this point (& I'm at the end of S4, the "New Day in Baltimore" area) there's a meaningful difference between administrations. The main problem with the previous policework was a mayor who didn't give a shit about efficacy, just the appearance of efficacy & pleasing stakeholders, so he ends up appointing bullshit commissioners and bullshit deputies and then pressures them to juke the stats.

This isn't "corruption" in the traditional sense of the word, but it's damn close, and it's at the heart of the problems of The Wire.

The other problem is an uneven quality police force—the way Sgt Haulk fucks up the entire Marlo Stanfield case, and gets teenage witnesses killed, in S4, is the biggest most predictable shitshow. But again, why is the unit bullshit? Because Rawls assigned a bullshit manager knowingly and on purpose to wreck the major crimes unit. Why is Haulk a sergeant? Not cuz he passed the test but because Mayor Royce gave it to him as a bribe.

Which is in some sense almost too optimistic—all the problems stem from bad administration! Just make sure you have good leadership, no problem! My expectation for S5 tho is we see Carcetti inevitably repeat some errors of his predecessor, if only because, at the end of the day, he too is ruled by the tyranny of optics, the necessity of good appearances that comes with advancing politically. In that sense, the problem becomes more systemic
 
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